With 28 years of firefighting service in Virginia Beach, 57-year-old Wayne Sandlin still loves his job. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he chose the treatment option that offered the best chance for him to return to his active life: the da Vinci laparoscopic radical prostatectomy.
And get him back to his life it did: He left Sentara Norfolk General Hospital one day after his surgery. He returned to work six weeks later.
“Dr. Robert Given, my surgeon, called my recovery ‘almost miraculous,’" Wayne said.
A diagnosis and a decision
Although he went to the bathroom once or twice a night, Wayne didn’t experience discomfort or any other symptoms of prostate cancer. He routinely had his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level tested during his annual physical. Everything was fine until April 2006, when his PSA level had risen from 2.9 to 4. He was sent for a biopsy.
"Utterly shocked and horrified" is how Wayne remembers feeling when the results came back.
But after meeting with his surgeon he felt better.
"My wife and I liked Dr. Given right off the bat. He reviewed our options with us,” Wayne shared.
His cancer had a Gleason score of 6, the "middle of the middle," he noted. Prostate cancer cells that have a low Gleason score grow slower than cells with a higher score.
Because of the benefits of minimally invasive surgery (such as a faster recovery and fewer chances of side effects), Wayne chose the da Vinci laparoscopic radical prostatectomy.
The fire department in Virginia Beach employs 450 uniformed firefighters, and Wayne appreciated the tremendous amount of support he received from this extended family. As a thank you, he now educates fellow firefighters about their increased risk for some types of cancer.
Firefighters - who may inhale or absorb carcinogens while doing their job -- are more likely to develop four types of cancer (prostate, testicular, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma).
Wayne encourages firefighters to wear breathing apparatus during the overhaul process, when they enter a building to hose everything down, ensure there are no hidden spot fires, and drag out smoldering items. Many carcinogens are released during the smoldering stage.
"God has given me another chance to do this," Wayne said. "I know what I went through, and I want to make sure others don't. It is my new purpose in life."